Late Holding Call Sinks Eagles’ Super Bowl Hopes


David J. Phillip/AP

Kansas City Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon (1) holds the Vince Lombardi Trophy after the NFL Super Bowl 57 football game against the Philadelphia Eagles Sunday, Feb. 12, 2023, in Glendale, Ariz. The Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Sloan Martin, Sports Editor

After playing an almost flawless second half, Patrick Mahomes added his second Lombardi Trophy this past Sunday as the Kansas City Chiefs defeated the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35 in the high-scoring, action-packed Super Bowl LVII. The Chiefs now impressively join the 2016 New England Patriots as the only teams to overcome a double-digit deficit at halftime in a Super Bowl. There truly was never a dull moment, with Patrick Mahomes and Jalen Hurts having a battle for the ages.

Super Bowl Sunday got off to a very hot start, with both teams scoring on their opening drives. The Birds opened the game with a sustained, 11-play touchdown drive concluded by a quarterback sneak. The Eagles have mastered the “QB sneak” thanks to their stout offensive line and unique push-technique, converting them at the most efficient rate in the league. Kansas City quickly bounced back, marching 75 yards to the endzone in just three minutes. Tight-end Travis Kelce’s touchdown reception officially made him the highest scoring TE in NFL postseason history – passing the legendary Rob Gronkowski. 

The Eagles would get the better of the first half by forcing the Chiefs to punt twice and only allowing 51 more yards of offense. The Philadelphia offense also continued to roll as Hurts connected deep with receiver A.J. Brown for a 45-yard touchdown and notched another rushing touchdown for himself. However, Hurts had a major blunder in the second quarter by fumbling the ball untouched on a quarterback draw – giving up a scoop and score to the Chiefs. What could have been a 24-7 lead going into halftime ended up being a 24-14 lead. As we now know, the fumble would prove very costly for Philadelphia.

Something clearly clicked for Kansas City after Rihanna’s halftime show. The Chiefs opened the second half with a high-octane drive capped off by an Isaiah Pacheco touchdown, and would go on to score on their remaining three drives: adding two more touchdowns and a field goal to ice the game. Despite reaggravating his high ankle sprain in the first half, Patrick Mahomes showed no signs of slowing. The star quarterback was 13/14 passing for 93 yards and two touchdowns in the second half and avoided any turnovers. Another major turning point for KC was Kadarius Toney’s 65-yard punt return that placed the Chiefs five yards from the end zone – the longest punt in Super Bowl history that allowed for an easy score.

What went wrong for the Birds in the second half? First, the highly touted defensive line that earned 70 sacks in the regular season – tying for the 3rd-most ever sacks in an NFL regular season – was unable to stop Mahomes behind the line of scrimmage. Whereas many saw the Eagles pass rush as a major threat to Mahomes in this game, the pass rush ultimately had an underwhelming impact. Next, the Eagles’ prominent run game only gained 24 rushing yards in the second half, with lackluster games from running backs Miles Sanders and Kenneth Gainwell. 

And lastly, there was that holding call, which surely left a sour taste in the mouths of many Eagles fans. 

With the game tied 35-35 and KC driving in the red zone after the two-minute warning, a 3rd & 8 incompletion turned into a Chiefs’ first down after a defensive holding call on James Bradberry. The penalty cost the Eagles another drive on offense, and allowed the Chiefs to run out the clock and end the game with a field goal attempt. Fans who prefer the “let them play” mentality certainly were upset by the call, since the hold appeared light on the replay. Moreover, the throw from Mahomes remained totally uncatchable regardless of the hold. However, Bradberry himself after the game admitted that the penalty was his fault, insisting, “It was a hold, so they called it”

The holding call brought an anticlimactic ending to an all-time offensive Super Bowl, but it would ultimately be unfair to suggest that the call was the sole reason for Philadelphia’s loss. Kansas City seized every opportunity it had in the second half and played to near-perfection. And as Eagles head coach Nick Sirianni noted, there are so many plays that contribute to the end result of the game that it never really comes down to one call. On the bright-side for Eagles fans: Jalen Hurts proved on the biggest stage that he is a star in this league, and can compete with Patrick Mahomes for years to come.